Engrave depth for Inlays

I am trying to inlay some metal gears on a coaster- I have gotten them to engrave to approximately the right depth through trial and error (multiple passes, playing with the power & engrave speed etc) but I still don’t really understand how to control this. Is it all about greyscale on the image you upload? Is there a simpler way to do this if you know the exact depth you want to engrave to?


Trial and error is the way… for every material. After a while you’ll get a knack for coming close on the first try with various materials, so fewer attempts will be needed.

As for color… I, personally, wouldn’t use it. I’d go with black every single time and manipulate power/speed/lpi. This way your color is a constant regardless of material.


Yeah, what tom set. Do a matrix of power/speed, possibly more than one pass.
I was going to do a walnut inlay onto silver/blue 2 color acrylic…but turned out to be a black not blue (or very very dark blue), so didn’t play further. Had a few runs to assess depth I need.
Depending on material a multi pass may better vs a single high power/slow speed engrave,
or add a fast low power engrave to clean up char prior to glueing. (Charging/melting/cleanliness of surface to glue to…)


Let me retract that… When testing I map to colors. So I actually use up to 10 different colors when testing new materials and assign specific speed/power/lpi values to each color. But the goal is to find that setting. Color doesn’t matter.


If you’re just trying to make a hole that is a single depth for the inlay, then a solid color. If you’re trying to do a 3D engrave, which would include something as “simple” as beveled sides, then a grayscale map would be required.

I haven’t tried a 3D engrave yet, but I have used multiple colors for engraving. Examples would be:

  1. You are using different veneers that are different thicknesses. Use a different color for each type of veneer.
  2. You are using a jig for the piece being engraved and you are doing a multi-step operation. You make what you want to be engraved in step 1 a color, step 2 a different color, etc…

I’ve also used different colors during the design phase (I use Inkscape) for the sake of my own sanity, but that is beyond the scope of your question.

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Thanks @Tom_A, @brandtmeister, and @caribis2 for sharing your tips!

If you are using a bitmap image, the darker the pixel, the more power the laser will use when engraving it. This allows engravings with variable depth, like the one pictured here.

Right now, this seems like a great question to ask in Glowforge Tips and Tricks.